Helen Vendler is one of those rare scholar-writers who doesn’t adhere to a particular school of theory. In her new book of essays, she explains her view of criticism as distinct from both philosophy and scholarship, as a form of learning that’s inherently “unsystematic and idiosyncratic.” In Open Letters Monthly, Jack Hanson reads through the book. You could also read Jonathan Farmer on Rita Dove’s letter to Vendler.
“I’ve turned paranoid lately. When I’m in an airport, I look at the people around me at the gate, trying to suss out who might make a good ally if things went bad. I carry two plastic tubs full of warm clothes, hiking boots, and first-aid supplies in the back of my Subaru at all times. I have as large a volume of canned and dry goods in my pantry and laundry room as the shelves will hold.” Rebecca Onion for Slate on the appeal and contagion of “prepper fiction.” Pair with our review of Claire Vaye Watkins‘s Gold Fame Citrus, one of the recent bumper crop of apocalyptic narratives.
We’ve written before about the By the Book series, in which the Times invites well-known authors to talk about their favorite books. This weekend, they interviewed the historian James M. McPherson, who recalled his childhood reading habits and cited his favorite examples of Civil War literature. Pair with: Darryl Campbell on the Civil War series by Ken Burns.
Granta posts Salman Rushdie’s 1984 essay ‘Outside the Whale’ – a response to an essay by George Orwell about the political role of the artist: “If writers leave the business of making pictures of the world to politicians, it will be one of history’s great and most abject abdications.”
Remember when Little Red Riding Hood was eaten by a hyena? Wait, that’s not the folktale we know. Whether or not Little Red Riding Hood gets eaten depends on where you hear the famous folktale, but anthropologist Jamie Tehrani discovered the origins of the scarlet-hooded girl — Belgium.
In 1945 and 1946, the FBI began keeping tabs on Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus. The Cold War was just around the corner, and the Bureau suspected their new targets were secretly agents of Communism. However, FBI agents who followed the French writers evolved in the course of their spying: they became, in G.K. Chesterton’s phrase, “philosophical policemen.” (h/t Slate)
Celebrate literary journal Asymptote’s third anniversary in New York City later this month. The event will feature Eliot Weinberger, Jeffrey Yang (translator of Liu Xiaobo), Paris Review poetry editor Robyn Creswell, Idra Novey (translator of Clarice Lispector), and Daniella Gitlin (translator of Rodolfo Walsh). They will come together for a panel discussion on translation and readings. The event starts at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, January 21 at Housing Works Bookstore Cafe.